By Nancy Price
(Neal Smith contributed to this article)
For some, success comes easy in life. For others, success is a challenge – the result of determination, hard work, passion and persistence.
These qualities are remembered – and honored – by those who knew Staff Sgt. Andrew St. John.
A local career center’s training facility has been dedicated to the Greenwood solider who was killed last year during a training exercise in Ft. Hood, Texas.
St. John, 29, was a Nineveh firefighter and served as an infantryman with Company B, 1st Battalion, 151st Infantry Regiment with the Indiana Army National Guard when he passed away on Aug. 15, 2019. He was a graduate of Martinsville High School and Central Nine, where he earned EMT and fire certifications.
INTEGRITY AND LOVE FOR COMMUNITY
The memorial service was held Oct. 21 on the campus of Central Nine Career Center for the SSGT Andrew St. John Memorial Training Facility. About 50 people attended the memorial for the staff sergeant, described as someone with integrity and love for his community.
“We are here today because a sacrifice was made to advance our collective security,” said U.S. Rep Trey Hollingsworth of Indiana’s 9th Congressional district. “I know … the impact Andrew made on those he met was profound and large. But we’re here not just because of those he met, not just because of those he interacted with, but because 330 million Americans will lead better lives, will lead safer lives, because of him.”
“Although I didn’t personally know Andrew, his friends and family talked about his sense of humor and his love for his country,” said Joe Hubbard, vice president of Central Nine Career Center. “His fellow firefighters talked about his passion for his job and the joy he felt to continue to serve his community through the fire department. As a veteran myself I felt obligated to make sure we pay respect to his sacrifice and to ensure a past student will not be forgotten while encouraging our current students to serve their community, too. Our job is to prepare our students for a post education life and there is no better way to do that than to ensure they don’t forget our past students’ journeys and choices in life.”
AN OLD SOUL
Dana Conley, St. John’s stepmother, remembers him as small in stature but caring, determined and wise beyond his years. “When he was in elementary school, he would always talk about what he watched on the news on our way home after picking him up,” she recalled. “That always surprised me for his age.”
“His grandfathers both served in the military and his Uncle Bobby was a firefighter,” she added. “In high school a recruiter talked about the military and he knew that is what he wanted to do. He also was excited about the adventure and going places he normally would not see. He wanted to be all he could be.”
Christian Kelley, St. John’s best friend, said he wanted to do great things in life and thought the military’s structure could help him in the future. “Andrew wasn’t the greatest student, but he had more drive and ambition than anyone I have ever seen,” Kelley said. “No matter how difficult a task was if Andrew had his mind set on it, he would accomplish it. I think this trait was what made him so successful in everything that he did.”
St. John was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, two Army Achievement medals, the Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the NATO Medal and the Indiana Military Volunteer Emblem. It was his determination and drive that allowed him to earn all those awards,” Kelley added. “I know each one that he earned was a proud moment for him.”
Capt. Joel DeWitt of the Nineveh Fire Department recalled an example of St. John’s can-do attitude. “While working at another fire department we were conducting a training at a commercial building along State Road 135,” he said. “We were using fake smoke and had multiple companies present; it looked fairly realistic. Andrew was driving by during an evolution, pulled over and started helping guys drag supply lines to hydrants. He was fired up and ready to help until the end. We laughed for ages when we explained it was only a training exercise.”
“The biggest thing that Andrew appreciated about his time serving was being able to help people,” Kelley added. “I still remember the day he called me before deploying to Haiti on the humanitarian mission after the earthquake. I think that was when helping people really became important to him. Andrew was very proud of all of his accomplishments but the biggest achievement to him was being a loving father. Everyone that ever met him heard stories about (his children) Max and Audrey and knew how much he loved them.”
“He has left a legacy for his kids and for those lives that he has touched in his short time here on earth,” added Conley.